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Customers have a huge dislike of friction. But it is everywhere in retail! Whether in-store or online, barriers to trade frequently exist. But when it happens online, it’s a conversion killer:

  • Keeps acquisition costs unsustainably high
  • Increases bounce rates
  • And to be frank, you may never meet your new customers!

Often, the trouble is that businesses are so busy peddling at 30 mph to keep their heads above water, pay the bills and maintain margins.

Conflicting priorities can emerge all over the place, and customers are very ‘demanding’. Really? Actually, we should love them as they push us harder to give them what they want and improve every aspect of our service.

Some of my experience

Working in retail for over 30 years, I have witnessed many examples of unnecessary friction. A recent post on Facebook by a re-opened local pub brought it home to me how simple things create so much friction.

The local reopened after a hugely expensive and brilliantly delivered conversion extension and renovation. It had been shut for years, so this was fantastic news. Add in lockdowns, and it was truly a blessing to see a focal point in the village back open. You can feel my excitement! Opening night came, and it was very well attended. All went smoothly, with good reports on the food and the array of ales and spirits and non-alcoholic drinks.

The offer

Coffee and breakfast in the morning, bar food from lunch and dinner (proper pub grub) in the evening, seven days a week. YES! Hat’s off to the staff as most were new, and the Covid restrictions can add a real layer of impersonality and complication for all staff.

Then came in a post on Facebook from the new pub – revised opening times.

Pub opening times:

Monday & Tuesday closed
Wednesday-Saturday 12 pm -11 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 10.30 pm
Food service times:
Wednesday 6 pm – 9 pm
Thursday & Friday 12 pm – 3 pm 6 pm – 9pm
Saturday bar menu 12 pm – 9 pm
Restaurant 12 pm – 3 pm 6 pm – 9 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm Sunday lunch menu only.

Thank you to all our fabulous customers for your continued support.

Sorry? What? Friction, you say? Yes everywhere! Sorry when can I eat again and which menu? When are you open and shut? When is the restaurant open? Can I pop in for a coffee on a Tuesday?

No, sorry, if you want to visit your beautifully renovated pub, get your calendar out and set square and divide by three.

Friction everywhere!

Now, I’m no expert in the hospitality industry, but I do understand customer behaviour. You have probably lost 50% of your current audience. 100% of your potential customers on a Monday and Tuesday. 100% of your morning audience Wednesday to Sunday. 100% of your food audience from opening until 6 pm on Wednesday.

Restaurant – not sure? Sunday? Sunday? No, sorry, lost completely. This is only how I read this, but you get my drift.

Why? Take a look at the local competition’s opening hours:

Monday 11:00 – 23:00
Tuesday 11:00 – 23:00
Wednesday 11:00 – 23:00
Thursday 11:00 – 23:00
Friday 11:00 – 23:00
Saturday 11:00 – 23:00
Sunday 12:00 – 22:00

Clear message: keep it simple

If the customers have to think about it, you have lost them before they even arrive in the car park and cross your threshold.

These elements of friction are everywhere in retail. Buying from a website is a pain point minefield. Home delivery is rife for friction as you hand over your brand to a carrier. Click and collect – is my order even there yet? In-store, you are at the mercy of so many areas, including your staff and what kind of day they are having.

The solution

Take a good look at your business, or even better, get somebody else to look at your business and pull out the pain points, warts and all!

Do not look at what is great (that’s the easy bit). It’s the tough questions that need answering. Here are a few examples:

  • Why didn’t customers shop with us? Why have they stopped?
  • Why is the restaurant so quiet – again?
  • Why are sales flatlining?
  • Why is conversion at 2%?
  • Why is the bounce rate 85%?

Get it all out, go through the end-to-end customer journey and don’t hold back! If you don’t know, you can never fix it.

Area’s worth focusing on


What are you selling and to who? What do you stand for? Are you even relevant? Take a good look at your proposition and pull it apart and keep doing so. Does it meet the need of your potential customer? Are you difficult to deal with or get access to?

Taking the example stated, if I have to check my diary, your website, and the restrictions within your menu choices (unless you’re a prison) – you have lost me!

Take a good look end to end and be as tough as you can. If you don’t trust yourself to be hypercritical, get some help; it could save your business or achieve the growth you’re looking for.

Offsite marketing

What are you telling your customers?

  • When are you open?
  • What is your delivery proposition?
  • How does click and collect work?
  • Do you appear in the Google Map stack? Are your details up to date, about you and so on.

What platforms, directories and search engine location pages are you available on, and what are you telling your potential customers? Do you even appear in paid or organic Google/Bing searches?

If the message is so complicated to understand, If I don’t know what am I getting and when can I access you, worst still I cannot find you – you have lost me!

Owned social media

So, you have opened a social media account – tick! Oh yes, we do a post every couple of weeks if there is time. Really?

Targeted strategy? Success criteria, reach, purpose, results…I wouldn’t bother.

Owned social media needs to be ‘owned,’ have a purpose. If you’re not paying, people are highly unlikely to see anything you post!

Should I bother? Yes, you should, and it should be owned, preferably at the board level, as it is an important growth channel. Done well, it creates profitable revenue. Own it!

Onsite journey

This is always open to interpretation and is contentious. Unless you have UX testing tools on your site and have enough volume to create confidence in the results, you need to get an expert to look at the results and ask them to be objective.

The journey needs to be seamless, fast, easy, and overall make sense to most customers. If you have volume, then test, test and test some more. Let the data decide not the HIPPO (Highest paid person in the office!).

The customers need to go through all processes with 100% confidence and 100% clarity on what you’re attempting to tell them and engage with you or make a purchase.

Next steps

Once you have your list of pain points and results, get cracking. Don’t shorten the list or convince yourself that they will go away – it is going to get increasingly demanding.

Face into them and start today. Do the small things, low hanging fruit, and if it’s technical changes, go MVP (Minimal Viable Product), so at least you have made a start.

React to market changes. Remember, with ecommerce, there is no panacea. Remain agile, build flexibility into your process, rinse and repeat. Keep going and keep challenging yourself.

Please don’t do this for the sake of your business, staff and most importantly, your customers!

Revised Pub Opening Times:

Monday & Tuesday closed
Wednesday-Saturday 12 pm-11 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 10.30 pm
Food Service Times:
Wednesday 6 pm -9 pm
Thursday & Friday 12 pm – 3 pm 6 pm -9 pm
Saturday Bar Menu 12 pm -9 pm
Restaurant 12pm -3 pm 6 pm -9 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm Sunday Lunch Menu Only.

Thank you to all our fabulous customers for your continued support.

Good • A website • great product

Great • An expensive website • Great product • accurate data • marketing

Explosive • A website built around the customer journey • Great product, priced competitively • accurate data (that’s acted on) • targeted digital marketing strategy • unified culture • a clear strategy based on digital growth • entrepreneurial culture

Key takeaways

  • Have a good look at your customer journeys
  • Be critical
  • Talk to your team and get feedback
  • Gather all customer feedback from all forums
  • Bring in experts to help you
  • Invest in the right technical tools and software
  • Do not compromise
  • On your proposition – customer first always

Rinse and repeat

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Andrew Salmon